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Drug Policy and Services News - April 2016

Welcome to the first 2016 Drug Policy and Services Newsletter.


The Drug Policy and Services team has prepared this Bulletin to provide an update on the work that is underway in the Department. It will focus primarily on work within our own Drug Policy and Services team, but will also aim to capture key activities underway in other related areas of the Department.

It is not intended to capture everything we do. Rather, it seeks to provide our partners and stakeholders with an update on key projects we are working on, and highlight developments and opportunities. Wherever possible, we will provide links or contact details for further information.

We would welcome your feedback and advice about this Bulletin and how we might make it as useful as possible.  Please email with any questions or feedback you may have.

On behalf of the Drug Policy and Services team at the Department of Health and Human Services, I look forward to working with you over the next year.


Bridget Weller

Acting Assistant Director

Drug Policy and Services

Spotlight on Hep C

Hepatitis C breakthrough

On 1 March 2016, direct-acting antivirals to treat hepatitis C became available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The new treatments are highly effective with a cure rate of 95-97 per cent. In most cases, treatment time is reduced to 8-12 weeks, administration is oral rather than injectable and there are little to no side effects. This is a major change from just a few years ago, when hepatitis C treatment time was from six to 12 months, with toxic side effects and only a 50 per cent chance of being cured.

These new drugs mean we can think of eliminating the hepatitis C virus within a generation. The medicines are: sofosbuvir with ledipasvir (Harvoni); sofoxbuvir (Sovaldi); daclatasvir (Daklinza); and ribavirin (Lbavyr).

The drugs have a dual listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme under both the General Schedule section 85 and section 100 Highly Specialised Drugs program. This is designed to enable broad access for all Australians living with hepatitis C, including prisoners.

General practitioners seeking to treat non-complex patients in a community setting are required to consult with a gastroenterologist, hepatologist or infectious diseases physician, to ensure people with complex needs are referred to hospital services.

The Department of Health and Human Services has convened a Hepatitis C Readiness Working Group, which is working to ensure Victoria takes full advantage of the opportunity represented by this listing. The group aims to ensure that affected communities, primary care alcohol and other drug services, criminal justice agencies, community health and tertiary providers are working together to provide access to testing, care and support, and to ensure people feel safe and confortable in accessing appropriate services, free of stigma and discrimination.

Further information

For professionals

For further information about treatments in Victoria, phone the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 703 003 or go to:

Statistics corner

  - 6,000 to 10,000 new infections of hepatitis C annually in Australia

  - 65,000 Victorians are living with hepatitis C who will develop chronic liver disease if not treated

  - 90% of hepatitis C transmissions are from injecting drug use

  - 85% of people with hepatitis C know they have it, only 1% of those get treatment

Investing in rehabilitation

Nine therapeutic day rehabilitation drug treatment services are now up and running. This $18 million investment will support more than 500 Victorians each year.

Each service is operating its own innovative program model. On 27 October 2015 the Department convened a workshop for services to share the detail of these models. Most of the programs run 4 or 5 days per week for 6 to 10 weeks. Post-treatment support is a core part of most of these programs. Further workshops are planned for 2016 to discuss progress on these programs.

Breaking through to families

The first official Breakthrough: ice education for families, was held in November 2015 in Cranbourne.

The program, which involves a four hour education session delivered by Turning Point and Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) facilitators, has been delivered in 11 locations since November 2015. Approximately 40 more sessions are planned for the first half of 2016 at locations in Melbourne and across regional Victoria.

Breakthrough is a new program designed to assist more than 1000 Victorians who are supporting someone affected by ice. It will help families and community members recognise when a family member has a problem with ice, encourage the affected person to get treatment and support them through their recovery.

Funded by the Victorian Government, Breakthrough: ice education for families is a partnership, led by Turning Point and involving SHARC and the Bouverie Centre.

For more information about the program and planned workshops go to:

Sector engagement

The Department has established a Sector Reference Group on Community Based Alcohol and Other Drug Service Delivery, comprising a cross-section of providers, peak organisations and other interested parties.

The Reference Group provides strategic advice to government on priority areas for action, as well as making recommendations on actions to be taken to address those priorities, drawing on the findings of the Independent Review of New Arrangements for the delivery of Mental Health Community Support Services and Drug Treatment services, released in November 2015.

The Group have met twice this year, discussing priority areas of action stemming from the Review, system improvement and performance data as well as opportunities for broader sector engagement.

Terms of Reference and updates on the work of the Reference Group and related papers and items are available on

In addition to the Sector Reference Group, the Department will be convening a number of consultation forums with alcohol and other drug service providers across Victoria.

This will provide an opportunity for treatment services to provide advice on priority areas of work on the Aspex review recommendations, as well as opportunities to improve service integration.

An all-day workshop will be held with the alcohol and other drug treatment sector on Friday 22 April 2016. Rural-specific community-based alcohol and drug treatment sector provider meetings commenced on Friday 8th April with the first meeting in Benalla. Similar meetings will be held in the remaining three DHHS divisions on the following dates:

 - Traralgon - Monday 18 April 2016

 - Ballarat - Wednesday 20 April 2016

 - Bendigo - Friday 29 April 2016

For a copy of the Review, go to:

For further information, go to:

Alcohol and other drug data collection redevelopment

Development of a new alcohol and other drug treatment services data collection is currently underway to ensure that fit for purpose, accurate and timely data is available to inform service planning, funding acquittal, performance monitoring, outcome measurement, research and evaluation activities. This will replace the full ADIS application of 1999.

The new data collection will:

 - Integrate alcohol and other drug treatment into the broader Health and Human Services system;

 - Ensure the service system is effective and efficient;

 - Underpin practice with quality tools and mechanisms;

 - Shift accountability for service provision from outputs to outcomes; and

 - Manage information and data effectively.

The work will be guided by the Drug and Alcohol Data Collection Redevelopment Reference Group, which will include representatives from service delivery agencies. This is an important part in ensuring that the new approach is fit for pupose and consistent with agencies existing data systems.

The further information, contact Ian Thomas, Manager, Mental Health & Drugs Information, Analysis & Reporting Unit, phone: 9096 5971.

And the winner is ...

On 18 November 2015, ReGen won the Victorian Public Healthcare Award for 'Improving health, safety, and wellbeing' for its work developing innovative, evidence based responses to methamphetamine dependence. For more information about the Victorian Public Healthcare Awards go to:

Victorian Public Healthcare Awards

The Department of Health and Human Services won the 2015 APAC Effie Bronze Award for Youth Marketing for the 'What are you doing on ice' campaign developed in partnership with the Penington Institute. Than you to all those on the expert advisory group that helped develop the campaign.

Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry

The Victorian Parliament's Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee is currently conducting an Inquiry into the effectiveness of laws and procedures relating to illicit and synthetic drugs and prescription medication.

The Inquiry is due to report on 3 March 2017.

Terms of reference can be accessed below:

Terms of Reference


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